We were sad to leave Jetty Park at Cape Canaveral, but it was time to continue north. We drove an hour and a half to our next stop, Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach. This is a very popular park year round and since we booked ten months out instead of the maximum eleven months, we were not able to get a spot on the beach side. We had to settle for the riverside campground across the road (A1A). This campground area is newer and the sites are much more spacious and the entire area is less congested. We missed being on the beach side but were quite content with our campsite. Once again the wind was whipping each day with a minimum ten mph winds with gusts exceeding fifteen mph. Too windy to even put the big awning out on the RV.
Everyone raves about the beach at Gamble Rogers but it didn’t begin to compare to the beach and boardwalks at Jetty Park. The Flagler Beach area sustained significant erosion damage in Oct 2016 from Hurricane Matthew. Parts of A1A were washed away and we could see where the new road had been constructed. Gamble Rogers also sustained quite a bit of damage from erosion, and all but one of the walkways down to the beach had been destroyed. They still have quite a bit of repairs to complete.
The park is named for James Gamble Rogers, IV, a man who gained national prominence playing lead acoustic and electric guitar with the Serendipity Singers. He was also a storyteller whom some compared to Mark Twain and Will Rogers. Gamble traveled the back roads of Florida with the up and coming Jimmy Buffet. Gamble taught Buffet the trade and was the opening act for Buffet at Margaritaville in Key West. In 1991 Gamble, his wife and another couple were camping at then Flagler Beach State Recreation Area. Gamble jumped in the water to save a man who was drowning. Both Gamble and the swimmer died. A plaque was erected in honor of his bravery and in 1992 the park’s name was changed to Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area.
The park has some nice trails where we enjoyed walking and geocaching.
When we checked into the park the ranger said they are trying to promote other state parks in the area and gave us a free pass to visit Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park located ten miles away in Ormond Beach. On Easter Sunday we attended a sunrise service at Flagler Beach. We then made the very short drive down to Ormond Beach to visit the state park.
The 2,200 acre Bulow Plantation was built in 1821 and was once a prosperous ante-bellum sugar plantation where the Bulow family grew sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo with the help of 193 slaves. The slaves lived in 46 slave cabins also on the plantation. When war broke out with the Seminole Indians in December 1835 during the Second Seminole War, the U.S. army troops occupied the plantation against the wishes of Bulow. In 1836 the plantation was destroyed by fire, probably by the Seminole Indians. (A sign at the Interpretive Center said the Second Seminole War was the “longest, costliest and bloodiest Indian War in United States History”). All that is left today are the ruins of the sugar mill, a spring house, several wells and the crumbling foundations of the plantation house and slave cabins. The sugar mill was built of coquina sedimentary rock made up of crushed shells and the ruins are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is an interpretive center describing the plantation’s history and the process of turning sugar cane into sugar and molasses. Unlike sugar mills which used animal power before the 1800’s, this plantation used steam powered mills which allowed the cane to be processed faster. However it was still a long, tedious and HOT process. The sugar mill business was profitable. After the plantation and sugar mill was destroyed by fire, Bulow estimated his destroyed sugar crop for 1836 would have been worth at least $20,000. The molasses was sold for making rum. Like other Florida plantation owners they traded with the Seminole Indians, trading blankets, fabric, beads, black powder and lead for the Indians’ cattle and hogs. Naturalust John James Audubon visited the plantation on Christmas Day, 1831. The property was acquired by the state of Florida in 1945 and was dedicated as a State Historic Park in 1957.
After touring the grounds we spent some time geocaching in the area, hiking over four miles.
One geocache we found was at the Fairchild Oak. It is one of the largest trees in the South, and while it is impossible to know for sure, it is estimated to be between 2,000 and 2,500 years old! The tree is named for Dr David Fairchild, a world famous botanist and naturalist. Among his greatest accomplishments is the introduction of soybeans to American agriculture. It was a really beautiful tree and another example of something we probably would have never found if not for geocaching!
While we were in Vero Beach we watched a rocket launch from the deck of a restaurant while having dinner with Sean and Cathy. We were disappointed there weren’t any launches while we were at Jetty Park, an ideal place for viewing launches. On our last day at Gamble Rogers there was another launch. We stood on a beach overlook with several other people and waited but we were a little too far away and it was too hazy.
We ended our stay at Flagler Beach by driving up to nearby Palm Coast to meet Bill’s former boss and his wife for dinner. We enjoyed fabulous barbecue food at Captain’s BBQ overlooking the river. The food was great and we recommend it to anyone passing through the area.
We move tomorrow (Wednesday) to St Augustine for two days.